guest post by Shaul Magid
… is another person’s”…..well, you know.
In the wake the Gaza Flotilla episode many labels were tossed about describing those on the Mava Marmara. It became clear quite early on that they were not peace activists solely interested in getting their cargo to Gaza. They were interested in provocation, in challenging the Israeli government against what they believed was an illegal blockade depriving Gaza’s citizens of food, clothing, and building materials. M.J. Rosenberg in the Huffington Post likened them to blacks who sat at all white lunch counters in the South during the Jim Crow era. They weren’t there for the pancakes. Some even called those on the Mava Marmara “terrorists.” This is an odd appellation given that they were not armed with deadly weapons nor were they travelling to Gaza to wage a battle against Israeli citizens.
The use of the term “terrorist” has become common nomenclature in Israel of many who openly and actively challenge its policies regarding the Palestinians. Of course, Israel had, and has, it own “terrorist” organizations (the Irgun and Lehi, more recently the Jewish Underground and today those who terrorize the Palestinians cave dwellers in the South Hebron Hills). And some of the members of the Irgun and Lehi ended up becoming prime ministers of the country, i.e., Menahem Begin and Yizhak Shamir. This irony rose to the surface this Sunday when I opened the New York Times Sunday Magazine and read Deborah Solomon’s interview with Tzippi Livni, the head of the Israeli Kadima party.
Solomon asked Livni:
Your parents were among the country’s founders.
They were the first couple to marry in Israel, the very first. Both of them were in the Irgun. They were freedom fighters, and they met while boarding a British train. When the British Mandate was here, they robbed a train to get the money in order to buy weapons.
So, Livni’s parents, who were both members of the Irgun, an organization that not only engaged in acts of terror against the British Mandate but was also guilty of killing Arab civilians, are called freedom fighters. Livni proudly and without solicitation speaks of how her parents robbed a British train to take the money to buy weapons. One could only assume the illegal weapons were used to commit acts of violence. But Livni’s parents are not terrorists while those on the Gaza Flotilla who were engaged in what began as a non-violent act of provocation (that is, until their ship was boarded in a pre-dawn raid by Israeli navy seals) are called “terrorists”? Here is one dictionary definition of terrorism: Terrorism is the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.
We all know the answers from both sides, repeated ad nauseum. However, given the volume of this crisis and the loose ways in which “terrorist” is used by Israel, I find Livni’s proud declaration of her parents criminal and ultimately violent behavior somewhat jarring. Freedom fighter’s indeed.